Syria has called on the UN for an investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack that both rebels and regime forces accuse each other of launching. Meanwhile, Germany has said it will take in more Syrian refugees.
Syria called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday to set up an "independent" investigation into its claims that opposition rebels used chemical weapons in a recent attack.
Both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebel forces have accused each other of launching the attack which killed at least 25 people near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday.
"The Syrian government has requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to form a specialized, independent and a neutral, technical mission to investigate the use by the terrorist groups operating in Syria of chemical weapons yesterday against civilians," Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters.
Late on Tuesday, Ban said he remained "convinced that the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime," the UN said late on Tuesday.
US and Russia weigh in
On Wednesday, Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Damascus who left Syria more than a year ago, said the US had no evidence so far to validate reports that chemical weapons munitions had been used.
"But I want to underline that we are looking very carefully at these reports," he added, in a US House of Representatives hearing on the crisis in Syria.
However, Russia, a long-time Syrian ally, accused rebels of carrying out a chemical strike based on information it had obtained from Damascus.
Germany to take more refugees
Meanwhile, Germany announced it was prepared to take in another 5,000 Syrian refugees in the coming months in response to waning conditions in the war-ravaged country.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Germany would grant asylum to 3,000 Syrians by June, followed by another 2,000 later this year in response to an "increasingly difficult" situation.
Friedrich said Syrian families with several children and minors living alone in the camps would be given priority, adding that Christians would likely also be given preferential treatment because "they are under particular threat of persecution."
Refugees with relatives already living in Germany would also have priority, he added.
Friedrich said Germany had already taken in about 8,000 Syrian refugees in the last 14 months.
The UN says the conflict between al-Assad's regime and rebels fighting to overthrow him has killed more than 70,000 people and forced more than one million to flee to neighboring countries.
hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)